ArtAsiaPacific: Yu Honglei at Magician Space, Beijing

“Everything is Extremely Important: There is Nothing That Will Not Come Back Again”

Yu Honglei solo exhibition, curated by Aimee Lin @ Magician Space, 798 Art District, Beijing, China

12 July – 8 September, 2013

By Edward Sanderson

Various objects and constructions are dispersed around the first room of “Everything is Extremely Important: There is Nothing That Will Not Come Back Again,” Yu Honglei’s solo exhibition at Magician Space. It is assumed that each is intentionally chosen and arranged, and as such suggests that they are imbued with meaning. Yet in Yu’s presentation, while objects and assemblages tempt interpretation, their meanings are left resolutely unclear—never quite fulfilling the viewer’s efforts to read them.

A low barrier perforated with a brickwork pattern is coated in a lumpy, clay-like material with two digital clocks, displaying identical times, inserted in the gaps. On the other side of the room, a similar barrier is laden with the same shapeless material this time supporting a light bulb and fitting. Towards the back wall two sky-blue wooden beams (reportedly from an “ancient building”) stand upright on tripods, with stuffed budgerigars clinging to their surface. A low, black, wooden box stands to one side, with two black porcelain cat figurines perched neatly on top.

This grey, lumpy material also masks the face of a clock—its hands, draped over the obstruction, read half-past six. Another circular object of the same material sits beside it, the top part folding over itself, and from which a gold necklace spills forth. On the other side of the room these two circular forms are mimicked, this time as a mirror and a lumpy object in silver, from which a silver necklace dangles.

These near-repetitions set up a series of encounters with the objects that court familiarity but simultaneously unsettle through significant but unexplained alterations. The formless, lumpy material suggests immanent resolution but the end products do not quite reveal themselves. The viewer therefore remains suspended in uncertainty, unable to grasp onto one form or another.

A video in the adjacent room provides some clues by weaving strands of narrative around the objects. But there are tricks involved. Two versions played sequentially—the first titled, “Everything is Extremely Important,” the second, “There is Nothing That Will Not Come Back Again”—follow similar trajectories, but contain slight deviations. Two actors (one being the artist himself) interchange roles between the two versions. They do not so much act, as hold themselves in position while being filmed, creating a tense mise en scène. The subtitles, which describe a slightly different story each time, serve to confound the narration further. In one instance, the narrator recalls playing with the two black porcelain cats in his childhood. In the first version, the cats are lost and then found again in a market; while in the second they are not lost, but the narrator considers selling them – a thought which gives the narrator a feeling of déjà vu. This reference to déjà vu suggests that the memories related by the narrator in the first video exist simultaneously with those in the second, as though the narrator is describing a different—yet parallel—experience.

In such an initially straightforward array of objects, the possibilities of interpretation are made endless via playful repetition and through the adjustments of form and material. Developing latent narratives through these objects, Yu creates fragmentary allusions to meaning. The artefacts display a strong sense of tension, their complexity a fascinating tour de force of expectations held in suspense.

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ArtAsiaPacific: Yu Honglei at Magician Space, Beijing by escdotdot is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International

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